Norcom DE Wesley Richardson and Lake Taylor WR Raylyn Manley (Photos: Lance Hinton and Andy Hilton/recruit757)
#9 Lake Taylor (4-2) v. Norcom (4-1): How will the Titans respond after suffering its worst loss in program history?
by Brandon Mitchell, recruit757
Lake Taylor (4-2) v. Norcom (4-1): Lake Taylor High School, 7:00 p.m. on Friday
Last Meeting: The Titans were on a mission last season which required them to have to get through Norcom in order to continue through their journey. Lake Taylor had won six-consecutive games up until that point including snatching victories over Freedom (Woodbridge), Phoebus, and Maury.
The Greyhounds lost three-consecutive contests to start the season, but were in the middle of a four-game winning streak at the time of their match up with the Titans. Norcom was able to serve
Lake Taylor a 33-13 drubbing which was the Titans worse loss since Freedom from a year prior. Jacoby Smith led the way for the Greyhounds collecting four touchdowns in a near flawless effort.
Last Time Out (Norcom): The Greyhounds are now riding a three-game winning streak after knocking off Norview last week by a final score of 46-6.
It’s the fourth time this season that Norcom has eclipsed the 40-point plateau which is something the Greyhounds only accomplished twice last season. Norcom was able to thoroughly dominate based how starting quarterback Jacoby Smith took the keys and drove the Greyhounds downfield all evening. Smith had a hand in five touchdowns with three coming through the air and one coming on the ground.
Last Time Out (Lake Taylor): Varina is playing out of this world right now. The Blue Devils have blown through their entire schedule with the exception of Manchester and will be there when the dust settles at the top of Region 5B.
If we learned anything from Lake Taylor’s 56-7 loss at the hands of Varina it’s that the Titans aren’t quite where they want to be. Their loss takes nothing away from where they’re going as they’re currently behind Warhill and Churchland in the Region 4A power rankings. Instead, it’ll be used as a referencing point for when Lake Taylor reaches the light at the end of the tunnel.
Norcom Key Players: Jacoby Smith (2020 QB 6-0 208), Karon Prunty (2020 DB/WR 6-2 180), Maurice Outten (2020 DB/WR 6-0 170), and Demonte Dunlap (2021 RB 5-8 160)
Lake Taylor Key Players: Jeff Foster (2021 QB), Malik Newton (2021 RB/LB 6-2 227), Ikeem Wright (2020 DE/LB 6-2 215), and Tyrique Tucker (2021 DL 6-0 280)
Applaud Robert Jackson and the Greyhounds coaching staff
21-13 was my prediction for when Norcom took on Hopewell during the third week of the season in favor of the Greyhounds.
Credit my prediction to holding on to what the Greyhounds used to be as well as a little bit of homerism mixed into the equation. It was a tough night and the fans should be able to tell the story better seeing as though they were the ones that had to sit in the unforgiving “away” section.
But hey, traveling to Hopewell can be difficult especially when you’re the road team.
Be that as it may, the game was a lot farther away than the final score indicated. But since then, the Greyhounds have been able to outscore their opponents by a combined score of 151-26. With the exception of Oscar Smith, the offensive output displayed throughout their last three games is nearly tops in the region. Also, leaving out their defense would be a grave mistake. The Greyhounds have allowed just eight points per contest over the course of their last three contests. Only Woodside, Salem, Cox, and Deep Creek have allowed fewer points while Phoebus and Maury are neck-and-neck with Norcom.
Typically we love to shove the camera in a star player’s face at the end of a game. And while coaches also receive some of the limelight, they never get the appreciation they deserve. It was up to Robert Jackson and his coaching staff to be the glue after Larry Archie was relieved of his duties.
After the Hopewell contest, it would’ve been easy for the Greyhounds to feel as though they may not be up for the challenge of competing against top Class 3 competition. However, Coach Jackson and company assured everyone in the Greyhound community that Norcom would be just fine and it wasn’t by anything they said. It’s been more so by how they’ve coached over the last few weeks. The Greyhounds are littered with talent up and down their roster, but it’s their coaching that needs to be feared just a little more than Jacoby Smith or Karon Prunty.
Is this the game where Lake Taylor responds?
The Titans have a lot to play for and a lot riding on their contest with the Greyhounds this Friday. But first things first, how does what happen at Varina happen the way it did?
To the fans, when you spend most of your time watching football on the Southside or perhaps even the Peninsula and into the BRD you don’t get to see much football outside of the region. Varina is a team that is trying to get to the level of Highland Springs and Coach Stu Brown just may finally have the team that can do so this season.
To the players, every year we continue to hear about the long standing rivalry between the Central Region and Hampton Roads. While I think it’s absolutely ridiculous, I can assure you that Richmond and its surrounding cities take knocking off the 757 extremely serious. Just look at how Highland Springs knocked off Maury last year 71-28. How about when Dinwiddie came out to Todd
Stadium in 2017 and knocked off Denbigh 70-7? It’s not just a normal game traveling to the 804 or even them traveling here.
And yet we’re still stuck on which Lake Taylor we’re slated to see on Friday night. There’s no way Jeff Foster, Malik Newton, and the rest of the 1384 boys will allow another mishap especially being at home this time. That being said, this is the worst possible match up to have after losing to Varina last week by a margin of victory larger than anything they’ve allowed in team history. Especially against a Norcom team that defeated this same team 33-13 on the road last year.
But, let’s not forget this is Lake Taylor that we’re talking about. Dating back to when Hank Sawyer showed up on campus in 1999, the Titans are 39-14 following a loss which lets us know that Lake Taylor doesn’t suffer many back-to-back defeats. Jeff Foster and the Titans offense played a remarkable two-game stretch knocking off Wilson and Booker T. by a combined score of 115-12 before falling to the Blue Devils.
Don’t let Lake Taylor getting dropped by Maury and Varina distract you into thinking this will be a walkover for Norcom. The Titans are still a dangerous team and a win could get them closer to Warhill in the Region 4A power rankings especially with a key game against King William looming.
X-Factor: Maurice Outten (2020 DB/WR 6-0 170)
Outten’s name has popped in my head multiple times throughout the week and for good reason. If you leave him out on an island he has the downhill speed to burn any type of coverage you put in front of him. Also, he’s been a lockdown defensive back alongside Karon Prunty in what’s been a no-fly zone this season for the Greyhounds. Remember, it wasn’t the passing game that destroyed Norcom against Hopewell. It was Robert Briggs, Trey Henderson and the ground attack. When guys like Jacoby Smith and Demonte Dunlap are firing off you know the Greyhounds are having a great day. But when Outten is on his game, forget about it.
Verdict: It’s not easy to could back after a demoralizing defeat and get back to playing some of your best football. That’s always the expectation, but the reality of the situation is falling back into some of the same ways that got you to that loss is just as likely. However, we know that Hank Sawyer is one of the most respected coaches in Hampton Roads and a repeat of last week is highly unlikely.
Meanwhile, Norcom is flying so high right now that their feet can’t even touch the ground. They’ve won three-consecutive contests and you can’t convince the Greyhounds they won’t pick up their fourth on Friday. However, they’re approaching a treacherous stretch with Lake Taylor, Maury, and Churchland looming in the distance. A win could continue something great, but a loss could be a flirt with disaster.
Lake Taylor should rebound to pull this one out, but I would doubt what Norcom is bringing to the table and a Greyhound victory shouldn’t surprise anyone.
– Brandon Mitchell